Anti-vaccine Informed Consent Action Network requests emails

On January 7, 2020, my school informed me that it received a new Public Records Act request for my emails, this time from the Informed Consent Action Network (ICAN), a well-funded anti-vaccine organization headed by Mr. Del Bigtree. The request was submitted via the law firm of Siri and Glimstad in New York, though it was not signed by Aaron Siri, a lawyer who represented groups fighting vaccines in the past.

They were also involved in an aggressive 9-hour deposition against a vaccine expert who agreed to support, pro-bono, a father seeking to vaccinate his young daughter (the father recently won his appeal). The request was signed by Attorney Allison Lucas; but since one of the requests was for emails with the word “Siri”, it is fair to see Attorney Siri as relevant, whether or not he was directly involved. Continue reading “Anti-vaccine Informed Consent Action Network requests emails”

Merck whistleblowers – mumps vaccine lawsuit motions and updates

merck whistleblowers

The old Skeptical Raptor is taking a bit of a break over the next few days to recharge his batteries for all of the pseudoscience that will be coming out in 2020. In lieu of new content, I will be republishing the top 10 most read articles on this blog during 2019. Here’s number 7 – the Merck whistleblowers myth. 

In August 2010 Stephen A. Krahling and Joan A. Wlochowski (“the relators”), former Merck virologists and often called “Merck whistleblowers,” filed suit in the name of the United States – a so-called qui tam action, where the prosecution shares any fines or penalties with the two virologists  – against Merck.

They claimed that by faking effectiveness testing, Merck misled the United States government as to the effectiveness of the mumps component of its  MMRII vaccine (a vaccine that protects individuals against mumps, measles, and rubella). In 2012  a clinic and two MDs filed a class action against Merck claiming a violation of the Sherman Act – monopolistic, anti-competitive behavior resulting from the fraud – and violation of various state laws. (U.S. v. Merck and Chatom v. Merck). The suits were handled together. Continue reading “Merck whistleblowers – mumps vaccine lawsuit motions and updates”

Dorit Rubinstein Reiss – an index of her vaccine articles on this website

Dorit Rubinstein Reiss

Dorit Rubinstein Reiss – Professor of Law at the University of California Hastings College of the Law (San Francisco, CA) – is a frequent contributor to this and many other blogs, providing in-depth, and intellectually stimulating, articles about vaccines (generally, but sometimes moving to other areas of medicine), social policy and the law. Her articles usually unwind the complexities of legal issues with vaccinations and legal policies, such as mandatory vaccination and exemptions, with facts and citations.

Professor Reiss writes extensively in law journals about the social and legal policies of vaccination–she really is a well-published expert in this area of vaccine policy, and doesn’t stand on the pulpit with a veneer of Argument from Authority, but is actually an authority. Additionally, Reiss is also a member of the Parent Advisory Board of Voices for Vaccines, a parent-led organization that supports and advocates for on-time vaccination and the reduction of vaccine-preventable disease.

She was also one of the many contributors to the book, “Pseudoscience – The Conspiracy Against Science.”

Many bloggers and commenters on vaccine issues will link to one or more of her articles here as a primary source to counter an anti-vaccine claim. The purpose of this post is to give you a quick reference to find the right article to answer a question you might have.

Below is a list of articles that Dorit Rubinstein Reiss has written for this blog, organized into some arbitrary and somewhat broad categories for easy reference. This article will be updated as new articles from Professor Reiss are published here. We also may update and add categories as necessary.


Continue reading “Dorit Rubinstein Reiss – an index of her vaccine articles on this website”

Legal challenges to stricter school vaccine mandates rejected by NY court

school vaccine mandates

On December 3, 2019, Judge Denise Hartman, from the New York Supreme Court in Albany (see Note 1), rejected a claim challenging the removal of the religious exemption from school vaccine mandates.

Judge Hartman has previously, in a careful decision upheld on appeal, rejected plaintiffs’ request for a preliminary injunction on stricter school vaccine mandates. In this decision, she provided a well-reasoned, thoughtful analysis of the constitutional issues.

Judge Hartman found that the change in the law in New York was based on public health, not hostility to religion, and fits well within the extensive precedent upholding mandates without requiring a religious exemption.

This lawsuit was the strongest, best-argued challenge to the New York law on religious freedom grounds. Unless plaintiffs appeal, this is likely the end for any serious chance opponents had at overturning the law, and even on appeal, their chances are likely low. Continue reading “Legal challenges to stricter school vaccine mandates rejected by NY court”

Public health and vaccines commentaries – employment repercussions

public health and vaccines

When employees speak up on matters of public health and vaccines in their free time, those who do not like the speech may retaliate by complaining to their employers, who may be tempted – or feel forced – to act against the employee. But employers should not, and some types of employers – public employers – are likely barred from doing so.

This post considers mostly employees in public institutions – department of health, teaching hospitals, or universities – because these employees have legal protection against sanctions – an employer is likely legally prohibited from acting against them because of speech on matters of public health and vaccines in their free time.

However, the points made about defamation and the policy considerations also apply to private employers, those who can fire employees at will, at least when the employees provide mostly accurate, fact-based information.

These issues can come up in a variety of contexts, some of which the employer may appreciate more than others. One situation is when an employee working for a public institution spends part of his personal time commenting on public health and vaccines issues and informing the public through a personal blog, on which his position is mentioned, or by commenting on social media, Facebook or Twitter.

The employee provides information, corrects misconceptions, and criticizes those offering bad advice or factually inaccurate information, sometimes with strong language. A person so criticized contacts the public institution and threatens to sue for defamation if the blogging does not stop and the statements are not retracted, or if the employee is not otherwise dealt with.

Or, for example, an employee makes a joke about a public health issue – in good or bad taste – in her personal time. People offended complain to the employer, either just criticizing the employee or threatening legal action. In both cases, employers should not take measures against the employee.

First, in most circumstances, there would almost certainly be no defamation case here. Second, limits created by the First Amendment on the ability of public employers (though not private ones) to fire an employee for their speech likely apply here. Finally, there are public benefits from allowing the employee to speak in this manner. Continue reading “Public health and vaccines commentaries – employment repercussions”

Lori Matheson refuses vaccines for child – Michigan court says no

Lori Matheson

On November 21, 2019, the Court of Appeals in Michigan rejected the appeal of Lori Matheson against a trial court order ordering her to give her daughter more time with her father, to vaccinate her daughter according to the recommended schedule, and to choose a new pediatrician for the child in collaboration with her father. The court found that it’s in the child’s best interest to be vaccinated.

This is a dispute between the divorced parents of a now four-year-old child (whose name is omitted for her privacy) about her care and custody. Vaccines are only one of the issues in dispute, the one I will focus on (since that is my area). Continue reading “Lori Matheson refuses vaccines for child – Michigan court says no”

NVICP SIDS vaccine decision overturned on appeal – the facts

SIDS vaccine

On July 18, 2018, a Judge of the Court of Federal Claims overturned the NVICP SIDS vaccine decision that awarded compensation to Mr. and Mrs. Boatmon for the death of their baby, JB. The Court found that the Special Master’s decision was arbitrary and capricious because it ignored previous decisions and applied a too-low standard of proof to the case. Continue reading “NVICP SIDS vaccine decision overturned on appeal – the facts”

California SB276 – legislation to limit vaccine medical exemptions – UPDATED

sb276

On 20 June 2019, after a long day of testimony on California SB276 from both sides of the mandatory vaccine issue, the assembly health committee voted 9 in favor, 2 against, and 2 abstaining to move forward with the bill which can prevent fake medical exemptions.

This post will describe the amended bill and then shortly address today’s events. Continue reading “California SB276 – legislation to limit vaccine medical exemptions – UPDATED”

Anti-vaccine press conference about California’s SB276 – checking facts

anti-vaccine press conference

On September 5, 2019, Attorney Leigh Dundas, representing an organization called Advocates for Physician Rights, held an anti-vaccine press conference attended by very little press, and organized by anti-vaccine activists. 

Ms. Dundas called for a Department of Justice investigation into what she described as a “multi-year campaign to override laws aimed to safeguard the privacy of minor children,” and made accusations of a cover-up. Note that the Department of Justice receives many and constant calls for actions, so just calling them to investigate means little without actually pointing to serious wrongdoing that justifies it. Ms. Dundas did not point to such wrongdoing.

The anti-vaccine press conference addressed efforts in the early days after the enactment of SB277 to address an emerging issue – fake medical exemptions. But in spite of the efforts to present this as a new discovery or a nefarious plot, it isn’t.

In fact, SB277 opponents knew of the efforts in early 2016 and responded in an aggressive fashion, targeting Dr. Charity Dean, who took the lead in them, with many personal attacks and inclusion in one of their lawsuits. There is also no real evidence of anything nefarious. There is, however, abundant evidence that fake medical exemptions were an issue in 2016 and onwards, and SB276 is directed at a real problem. Continue reading “Anti-vaccine press conference about California’s SB276 – checking facts”